Escarpment Trail

by Gerard Grealish

Escarpment Trail
for Brenna

Had I not forgotten exactly
what it meant we would have
hiked a different course back the same
we took to North Lookout where
we’d seen hawk and vulture
glide in the easterly winds off
Ridge Overlook and the River of Rocks.

But the city inside me paled
against her seven-year-old insistence:
Don’t you want to know
what an “escarpment” is?

Were she not so stubborn
neither of us would be
clambering over these endless
boulders crevices sloping
toward an abyss the red paint
splotches marking a rocky trail
like blood.

Halfway back she pauses.
The distance from one rock
to another outreaches her arm.  She’s
scared as I hold out
the hand she grabs

stronger and surer
than a moment later when I
will fall an old man
she cannot lift the one her father put
his trust in for whom
she hopes love has powers
beyond itself.